Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Excerpt: Children of the Gods

Good news everyone! I finally have internet at home so you'll be hearing from me a little more regularly - yay! Nothing like surgery, a vacation, a move, starting a new job, and over a week without internet (during which I was busy unpacking and trying not to lose my mind) all within a couple of months. Helping me get back into the swing of things is hosting a stop on the CLP Blog Tour for Monica Millard's novel Children of the Gods. If you think the following excerpt sounds interesting, make sure you  keep checking the reviews on the CLP site to see what others thought of the book.

Happy reading! :)

A hush fell over the crowd, but that was not what jarred me back into the present. I felt it when the Halorans stepped from their glowing pedestal onto our soil. It was like the earth was warning me, sending a current of energy up through my feet. It had never happened before. 
I wiped this and all other thoughts from my mind. I imagined dried corn, sterile fields, and barren deserts. Then I tried to become one; unwelcoming and inhospitable as I could be. 
The Halorans had come to us hundreds of years before, when our City was just a village. They promised life free of hunger and poverty to a starving people. In exchange, the offering of a few healthy teens every twenty or thirty years, so a God might inhabit and co-exist inside their body, did not seem such a high price. Back then, they thought starvation was the worst thing anyone ever had to endure. 
In the years before the first Choosing, under the protection and care of the Halorans, our meager village blossomed into a thriving city, their city. It became known to all as The City of the Gods, and anyone who lived within came to be known as The Children of the Gods. 
After the first Choosing, the Halorans closed our borders. Generations later, we are captives of a choice we ourselves did not get to make. 
I am not sure who I was more angry with, our elders for bartering their children’s and our lives so easily or the Halorans themselves. 
Quickly, I forced my mind to return to the images of the desert and my skin being covered over by the hostile winds of my own private sand storm. No one would choose such an unfavorable host body. I hoped.
I looked at my bare toes as they approached. After a long moment, I could feel the tension of every held breath. Not even the wind seemed to be blowing. I looked up to see that the Halorans were stopped in front of my row, the Sari looking expectant. A smile teased the corners of his lips as he made eye contact. In anyone else, his actions might seem flirtatious. But he was not anyone else. 
With his guards not standing next to him, I was struck by just how tall this Sari really was. His young features belied his extensive years. If I did not know better, I could believe he belonged in line next to Niko. The innocence associated with their perpetually youthful appearance may also have been what led to our ancestor’s easy trust of them. When they began to move again, I did not let the breath I was holding free. I was not safe. In fact, I was probably in more danger than before. The Halorans thrived on the dramatic. They also chose each of their mates new hosts. If the Sari was choosing, and it appeared he was, then it was no longer Niko I had to worry about. 
My head began to swim. It would do me no good to faint. Fainting would not stop them if I was Chosen. It had happened before. The guard just collected the girl, tossed her over his shoulder and carried her to the pedestal. My breath was like the wind, dancing in the hair of the girl before me as I exhaled. Oddly, her swirling golden hair sounded like wind chimes. It took me a moment to realize the chimes I was hearing were from the decision bell. I knew before I looked up. 
A single finger pointed in my direction. The guard stood by the girl in front of me. The Sari shook his head and the guard brushed her aside. The Sari’s white teeth gleamed in the sunlight as a smile spread across his horrid face. “This one?” The guard gestured at me. 
He nodded. 
The Luna, his mate, looked almost sympathetic. It could not be. She must be too sick to smile. They felt no sympathy for the lives they stole. If anything, the Choosing was high entertainment for them. 
Several guards came close, surrounding me. I bowed my head, showing my acceptance. The Sari turned and walked away. The guards all tensed. The Halorans no longer turned their backs on us after choosing. Not since a girl plunged a dagger in the back of her Sari. 
We all knew they were not really gods as they claimed. In the beginning, everyone was eager to be Chosen. They were told, by allowing a god to inhabit their body, they would also become gods.  After the first generation of Chosen came back to choose, the truth was obvious. But it was not until a generation ago, when a girl, Lennie, stabbed the Sari who chose her, that we knew they could die. 
The guards took a step forward. I held my hands out to show I did not have any weapons. I was searched thoroughly before entering the courtyard, but if a person wanted it enough, they could find a way to bring a weapon in. The guards relaxed, but not by much. I took a step forward, my eyes searched for Niko as I turned to make the walk. He caught my eye and raised his hand like he was reaching out for me. Mercifully, those around him restrained him. It was an unfair thing I had done to him.


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